Ice Fishing in Minnesota | The Complete Guide

Set The Hook Guide Services - Minnesota

Early ice sets in when November hits Minnesota, and temperatures begin to drop. It will not be long until the frozen water becomes a hub of activity with ice fishing houses and native Minnesotans. With morning rays reflecting off the ice, anglers seek to catch the multitude of fish that usually dwell out of reach beneath the surface. If you’re ready to conquer the winter chill and catch a big one, we’ve got you covered with this all-inclusive guide to ice fishing in Minnesota. Since Lake Minnetonka is one of Minnesota’s best ice fishing spots, we’ll advise you on Lake Minnetonka ice fishing. Get ready for winter fun.

What Is Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing in Minnesota is a time-honored tradition. Ice fishing is an exciting and fun experience for everyone when winter sets in. Getting started is easier than it seems, and learning from an experienced ice-fishing angler can make the process enjoyable. 

Minnesota’s most popular winter species to catch include Walleyes and Panfish. Just after sundown is the best time to catch Crappies and Walleyes, while Northern Pike can be caught any time of the day. Ice fishing can be done any time of the day, and most fish are active at dawn and dusk. Ice house rentals offer modern-day convenience and warmth, letting you fish through the night.

Ice fishing is a social activity. Bring your kids or friends for a few days out on the ice and enjoy a nice vacation. Schedule a family trip with siblings and cousins to get the family together during winter.

Minnesota Ice Fishing Season

Winter blows in sooner and leaves later in Minnesota compared to the rest of the United States. Lakes here build up a thick frozen layer of ice for days, which is vital. Ice fishing season starts in late November and early December and ends in March. 

Lake Minnetonka ice fishing is a fantastic experience that’ll have you pulling up a ton of fish. From good panfishing experiences to Northern Pike and Walleye fishing, Lake Minnetonka is one of the best spots to fish in Minnesota.

Winter Safety: Staying Warm

First, layer up! Dressing for cold temperatures means being specific about every piece of gear you put on. Your outfit should include the following:

  • A hat
  • A scarf or knit mask that covers the face and mouth
  • Sleeves that are snug against your wrist
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Several layers of loose-fitting clothing
  • Snow pants
  • Ice cleats
  • Waterproof boots
  • Waterproof/Water resistant jacket

The right layers and gear are essential to staying warm. Your inner layers should hold more body heat but not absorb moisture, and then you should have an insulation layer. Your outer layer is critical when ice fishing. This outer layer protects you from wind, rain, and snow and should be water and wind resistant to reduce loss of body heat. Knowing the signs of hypothermia and frostbite is essential during any winter activity. 

When toting gear across the lake, you can work up a sweat, so monitoring your layers and waiting to pull on the warmest after you’ve hauled your gear in is the best way not to overheat. If Minnesota ice fishing seems intimidating, consider a guided ice-fishing trip with a professional who will guide you through what we cover here.

Ice Thickness: Prioritize Your Safety

While having the right equipment is essential, knowing how to stay safe on the ice is crucial. Ice is never 100% safe. You can’t judge the strength of ice by how long it has been cold, and cold water is hazardous. White ice, or “snow ice,” is only half as strong as clear ice. Check ice thickness at least every 150 feet to be safe.

For new, clear ice, the DNR of Minnesota suggests the following thickness for activities:

  • Under 4″: Stay off the ice.
  • 4″ – Ice fishing and other on-foot activities
  • 5″ – 7″: Snowmobiles or ATVs can be supported
  • 8″ – 12″: Car or small pickup
  • 12″ – 15″: Medium truck

Ice Fishing Gear: Everything You Need

The amount of gear you need and use runs the gamut when ice fishing. Here, we’ll break down the absolute essentials. If you are still deciding if you want to go all-in, keep in mind that fishing guides like Set the Hook have high-quality outdoor fishing gear for rent. Renting an ice fishing house can take much of the planning needed out of Lake Minnetonka ice fishing, as you’ll have professional equipment without having to hunt for it.

Fishing License

Make sure you pick up your daily or yearly fishing license from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. There are options for individual permits and married couples, as well as a non-resident license that allows out-of-state visitors to enjoy Minnesota ice fishing.


Augers are machines used in Minnesota ice fishing to cut through the ice. One of the most popular choices is one with a drill attachment. There are a variety of augers that you can use, with their own benefits and drawbacks. The old-school manual auger doesn’t require batteries or gas but uses arm power, which can wear you out. A gas-powered auger will cut through thicker ice but has disadvantages like gasoline and fumes that can lower your chances of catching fish. Many people go for lithium-ion augers that are great for cutting through the ice but have concerns such as battery life. 

Ice Fishing Rods

You’ll have lighter, medium, and heavy-action rods depending on your intended catch. While lighter fishing rods load up more fully on the rod, these are intended for smaller fish. Lighter rods are only rated for 3 to 5-lb fish. 

Medium to heavier action rods are more extended and stout. They usually only load up weight on the rod’s tip and have more rigidity to handle larger fish. You want to use this if you’re going for big fish.

Ice Fishing Lines, Ice Jigs, and Tackle

With so many on the market, we recommend using robust and low-visibility fishing lines will yield better results while fishing. With different ice jigs and tackle, teardrop jigs are great. Spoons and Swedish pimple fishing lures are suitable for Northern Pike. If you’re going for Walleye or Bass, use a swimbait—the quick movements of a swimbait trick predator fish into biting.


Try wax worms, maggots or minnows for ice-fishing live bait. You can try slowly jigging to attract the fish, but it also works with artificial bait. Plastic ice fishing lures can attract smaller fish reasonably easily. Though if you want to go for the larger fish, you’ll need a large hook with sizable live bait. Minnows, smelt, are an excellent choice for this. Big sucker minnows are fantastic for Northern Pike, and smaller ones will help you catch some Walleye.

Ice Cleats, Ice Spikes, Rope, and Whistle

A pair of ice cleats, rope, spikes, and a whistle are essential for safety. Ice cleats will keep you from slipping and getting injured when walking across the ice. If you fall through the ice, a pair of ice spikes and a whistle can save your life.


A sturdy ice fishing shelter is a must for ice fishing in Minnesota. The options range from all-season tents designed for all weather conditions to ice shanties, with the warmest options being the ice fishing houses that dot the ice come winter.

Ice Fishing Tents

You’ll want a tent that can comfortably shield you from the cold and the wind, so pick an all-season double-layer tent with heavy fabric. The floor should be insulating and waterproof. There are specific ice fishing tents with a stove jack that can keep you warm and allow you to cook meals on the ice. Your tent should have proper ventilation and enough space to accommodate your group. Ice fishing tents can suffer in heavy wind conditions and take longer to heat up.

Ice Fishing Flip-Overs

A Flip-Over ice shelter is for one or two anglers at a time. These small ice shelters allow you to pull the tent over you in a single motion. While they’re quick and easy to set up and tear down, they only have a little space and require a vehicle or trailer to transport.

Ice Fishing House

These long-term shelters are solid structures usually equipped with many modern-day commodities. TV sets, heaters, generators, stoves, beds, and bathrooms are all great when it’s been a long day on the ice. There are usually holes in the floor so that you can sit in warmth the entire time you’re fishing, and ice fishing houses equipped with a rattle reel can catch a lot of fish. The rattle reels can even wake up heavy sleepers who want to fish all night long when it might be easier to catch fish.

Feeling a Little Lost?

Not a problem. Hauling all your gear out into the cold for long hours can be exhausting, and the set-up can be a vast time-sink when you could just be catching fish. Whether you’re an experienced ice fisherman or just starting Lake Minnetonka ice fishing for the first time, staying warm, comfortable, and safe out on the ice is the top priority. Check out our options below if you want a smooth ice fishing experience.

Ice Fishing House Rentals

Don’t want to bother with an auger or being cold? Rent an ice fishing house when you go to Lake Minnetonka ice fishing. Set the Hook provides ice fishing houses with everything you need to go Minnesota ice fishing. That includes tackle, rods, reels, underwater cameras, tip-ups, and bait. When you arrive, the heat will be on, and the holes will be drilled. Rent a half day or a full day to suit your needs.

If you’re using an ice fishing house rental for your trip, the only gear you’ll need to bring with you is:

  • Clothes
  • Fishing License
  • Fish bag or bucket to take your catch home
  • Food and drinks
  • Sleepings bags and pillows, if staying overnight

These ice fishing houses are moved over the season as the hot spots change, ensuring you get the best catch. Fishing in a high-quality, well-equipped ice fishing house allows you to bring your kids along without worrying about them getting cold. Ice fishing is a fantastic way to build a childhood memory for your kids during the winter.

Professional Guided Tours

There are inherent dangers to Minnesota ice fishing. Ice conditions, traveling safety, and ice thickness are all factors to be mindful of. It’s best to learn these things from an experienced ice-fishing angler. While ice fishing is easy and exciting, having a professional to learn from means you’re prepared for the adventure of ice fishing in Minnesota.

There are a wealth of tips and tricks that experienced anglers know on how to catch Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappies, and more. Relax with time away from work and let Set The Hook provide Tuned Up custom fishing rods and Clam Gravity Elite Reels. We’ll bring the best bait and our Yetti ice fishing house rental.

Got a Large Group?

If you’re looking for your next large get-together, Set the Hook offers grouped fishing houses to accommodate large group sizes. Our rental services include corporate group trips and large family get-togethers. Step out of your usual events and embrace ice fishing in Minnesota!

Have Fun This Winter!

Don’t be intimidated by ice fishing. You can always rent before you buy and see if ice fishing is for you. Thousands of Minnesotans enjoy ice fishing on the lake every winter, and even beginner fishermen will have a great time fishing under a guided tour. Lake Minnetonka holds Northern Pike, Walleye, and Muskie and is one of Minnesota’s best bass lakes. Get your guided tour scheduled today so you can join the fun every winter. Good luck out there!